The Revolutionary Playlist

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 7: Aimun Faisal

Rage is a remarkable emotion. Often misunderstood to be a destructive force, when honed and tempered with love, rage really manifests itself in truly beautiful ways. Perhaps, that is what binds this playlist together. Rage: as poetry in defiance of a dictator, as memory of a revolutionary tradition, as hope for the future, as an expression of self-love.

That really is the end-goal; to keep the fire burning.

Aimun Faisal is the Communications Associate at The Polis Project and a freelance journalist based in Karachi. She tweets at @bluemagicboxes.


The Playlist

  1. Iqbal Bano, Hum Dekhein Ge
  2. Nkechi at TEDX, Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman 
  3. Junoon, Sayonee
  4. Sami Amiri, Umeed-e-Karawan
  5. NWA, Fuk Da Police
  6. MC Kash, Freedom Fighter
  7. Aurat March, Aur Woh Rapist Ho Tum
  8. Lyara Underground Rapperz, Kasani
  9. Asrar, Lajpaal Ali

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 6: Ahmer Naqvi

I wanted to make a playlist that captures resistance as not just anger, but also as joy, as satire, as lament and as moving on.
Resistance, like music, can be infectious.

Ahmer Naqvi is a freelance writer on popular culture.

He tweets at @karachikhatmal

The Playlist
  1. Dead Prez, Hip Hop
  2. Jawab De, Faris Shafi
  3. Tinariwen, Chet Boghassa
  4. Pashto Anthem, Da Sanga Azaadi Da
  5. Black Lives Matter Protest/Pop Smoke, Dior
  6. Pop Smoke, Dior
  7. Lyari Underground and Dynoman, Players of Lyari
  8. Bashir Ahmed, Hum Chaley Chhor Ker Teri Mehfil Sanam

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 5: By Suchitra Vijayan

What you will hear first on this playlist is not quite a song but poetry. Nina Simone,  loud and proud, proclaiming that freedom is a feeling. She says, “No fear, that being free to me.” 

Every few years, I return to her 1970’s interview, each viewing brings new insights, new joys, and a renewed sense of purpose. On some days I can’t even fathom that someone like her existed. 

So this list — made of Tamils, Kashmiris, Pashtuns and more tells us that struggle for love and dignity are always entwined. It’s also a reminder to not stop fighting against fear, to live passionately, to fall in love fiercely, and always stand in solidarity with those fighting for their freedom and dignity. From Kashmir to Palestine until their freedom comes.


The Playlist

  1. Nina Simone, Freedom
  2. Nina Simone, Ain’t Got No, I Got Life
  3. Yasir and Jawad, Reidi Gul
  4. M.I.A, Matahdatah Scroll 01 “Broader Than A Border
  5. Arivu x ofRo with Therukural,  The Casteless Collective and Pa Ranjith, Kallamouni 
  6. Tamer Nafar, Ya Reit (If Only)
  7. Tracy Chapman, Talkin’ About a Revolution
  8. MC Kash, Listen, My Brother
  9. Kappaloddiya Thamizan (Movie), Entru Thaniyum Intha

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 4: By Michael Busch

By Michael Busch

23 May 2021

This week marked the 96th birthday of Malcolm X. I’ve been thinking of him more than usual these days, especially since the latest gruesome siege on Gaza got underway and American liberals, who’ve rightly embraced the movement for Black lives, adopt the exact opposite logic in regard to Palestinians.

But I have also been curious about the renewed interest in Malcolm (and radical Black politics in popular culture more generally), the modes of mainstreaming implicit in the process, and what all of this might suggest about the possibilities for liberation movements in the post-pandemic era.

Yet Malcolm has always been a cultural touchstone, especially within the traditions of jazz, and later rap. This isn’t surprising. The spirit of jazz lives in its rhythms of revolution and resistance, offering refuge during moments of crisis, spiritual salve in the aftermath, and the moorings of hope, love, and courage in the ongoing struggle for justice and humanity.

The playlist I’ve arranged draws from this rich catalogue, and jumps off with “Soul Brother,” Hannibal Marvin Smith’s celebration of Malcom’s life and legacy. From there, the songs compiled here reckon with the abominations of slavery, the triumphs of militant struggle, and the righteousness of the civil rights movement. It concludes with Pharoah Sanders’ “Harvest Time,” a meditation on labor and sacrifice which, to me at least, speaks to the promise of transcontinental solidarity in defense of the oppressed. 

Michael Busch teaches in the Graduate Program in Human Rights at John Jay College, CUNY, and is the Director of Public Programs at The Polis Project.

He tweets at @michaelkbusch


The Playlist

  1. Hannibal Marvin Peterson, Soul Brother
  2. David Axelrod, Freedom
  3. Roy Brooks, The Free Slave
  4. Ramsey Lewis, Them Changes
  5. Shamek Farrah, Umoja Suita
  6. Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra ft. Josephine Oniyama, Badder Weather
  7. Atlantis Jazz Ensemble, Yemaya
  8. Pharoah Sanders, Harvest Time

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 3: By Manan Ahmed

By Manan Ahmed

16 May 2021

Since the lockdown was lifted, I have been walking incessantly, daily, as a ritual. I don’t ‘go’ anywhere. The routes were exhausted in the first month or so. Just over and over the same concrete pathways around my abode. I have felt walking ‘in place’ because the din of worry envelops me through every step. Still, as I have walked, I have often tried to listen to voices of defiance against military dictators, patriarchs, caste oppressors, occupiers of Kashmir, destroyers of Gaza, destroyers of Kabul; against those who under the guise of legislation tried to make Muslims foreign to India, and those who are attempting to take land and soil away from farmers. These songs do share a sonic vocabulary of protest that emerged in Bronx and Brooklyn and Queens went global. Rap has always provided a register for those who seek liberation, who protest and who bring fear into the hearts of the oppressors.


The Playlist

  1. MC Gaza, We Didn’t Fear the Sniper Shots
  2. Afghan Rap ft. Sarwar Ali, Roll 40 “Etobar”
  3. Rap Kid Arfat ft. Baabarr Mudacer, Tofan
  4. Somewhat Super ft. Abid Brohi, The Sibbi Song
  5. Naveen Koomar, Bol
  6. Sumeet Samos, Desia Pila
  7. Kanwar Grewal & Harf Cheema, Pecha
  8. Raees Ch. ft. RB Rapstar, Punjab Da Kissan
  9. Begairat Brigade, Aalu Anday
  10. Garam Anday, Maa Behn Ka Danda

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 2: By Ethel Baraona Pohl

By Ethel Baraona Pohl

9 May 2021

June Jordan wrote in 1972 a beautiful poem —‘For my brother’— asking him to teach her how to sing in moments of despair. With this short playlist I just want to share some of the songs that make me sing (when in doubt), because each of them make me think that, by learning to sing all together, we can make out of our voices a common ground donde los idiomas no importan, porque podemos sentir la música recorrer nuestras venas y ser parte de un latido común, calling for freedom, equality, inclusiveness; singing for a world that can be better; a world that is out there waiting for us to raise our voices para caminar erguidos, sin temor —respirar y sacar la voz.

So here is an assemblage —a sort of musical cadavre exquis— with some inspiring voices, encouraging us to sing together. As Serrat says —stealing the words from Machado— “se hace camino al andar” and I guess that perhaps, también al cantar.

Because, ”this too shall pass so raise your glass to change and chance, and freedom is the only law shall we dance; so if you feeling low, stuck in some bardo, I even I know the solution: love, music, wine and revolution.” —Perdóname amor, por tanto hablar, es que quiero ayudar al mundo cambiar, ¡qué loca!

Ethel Baraona Pohl is a writer, critic and curator, whose work focuses on architecture and political theory. She is co-founder of independent research practice and tweets @ethel_baraona.


The Playlist

  1. Magnetic Fields, World Love
  2. María José Llergo, Canción de Soldados
  3. Choir! Choir! Choir! & Patti Smith, People have the Power
  4. Sacar La Voz ft. Jorge Drexler, Ana Tijoux
  5. Silvio Rodriguez, El Necio
  6. Sara Curruchich ft. Amparo Sánchez, Ixoqi’ 
  7. Joan Manuel Serrat, Cantares
  8. Gil Scott-Heron, Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  9. Nina Simone, I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)
  10. Mercedes Sosa, El tiempo es veloz

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 1: By Francesca Recchia

By Francesca Recchia

25 April 2021

With others – for me

A celebration, a collective blessing – and the quest for self that finds its meaning in political passion.

Personal redemption and collective solidarity, the confirmation of who I am materializes through the commitment to a united fight for kindness and justice.

The revolutionary playlist is a collective, continuous musical reflection on the transformative power of change and revolution.


The Playlist

  1. Khumaiyaan, Tamasha
  2. Mercedes Sosa, Gracias a la vida
  3. Vinicio Capossela, Ovunque proteggi
  4. Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, What I am
  5. Bob Marley and The Wailers, Redemption songs
  6. Modena City Ramblers, Contessa
  7. Giovanna Marini, Combattete lavoratori
  8. CCCP – Fedeli alla linea, Spara Jurij
  9. Linton Kwesi Johnson, Fite them back
  10. Inti Illimani, El pueblo unido

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